“Hobo with a Shotgun” started life as a faux trailer used to help promote the 2007 release of the Robert Rodriguez/Quentin Tarantino extravaganza, “Grindhouse.” It probably should’ve remained as a kitschy, grimy celebration of scratchy B-movie promotion. Since iffy internet jokes never seem to die peacefully anymore, we now have a feature-length version of “Hobo with a Shotgun,” and the upgrade is mostly unbearable camp disguised as hip homage, splattered with enough blood and guts to distract from a cinematically empty reality, with director Jason Eisener declaring screen war without any notable scripted ideas.
Into the decaying Hope City comes Hobo (Rutger Hauer), a broken man with dreams of owning a lawn mower in an attempt to rebuild his shattered existence. Facing life on the street, Hobo witnesses a daily parade of brutality, orchestrated by crime lord Drake (Brian Downey) and his two sadistic sons, Slick (Gregory Smith) and Ivan (Nick Bateman). The ghouls own the town, leaving Hobo disgusted and aching for change. Salvation comes in the form of a shotgun, which gives the homeless man an opportunity to fight back, soon cleaning up the streets with his boomstick brand of justice. Befriending hooker Abby (Molly Dunsworth), Hobo finds the human comfort he’s been craving quickly threatened when Drake returns with a new breed of enforcer to take down the shopping-cart-pushing pest.
Filling three minutes with ultraviolence to make a satiric statement is a fairly easy goal to achieve. Transporting that brief joke to 85 minutes of screen time requires a considerable inflation of imagination, which is something Eisener and screenwriter John Davies are lacking. Working the same tribute/send-up mode that injected life into “Death Proof,” “Planet Terror,” and “Machete,” “Hobo with a Shotgun” fails to create a giddy impression, instead submitting a completely obnoxious take on B-movie theatrics, with the film more obsessed with noise than a slick sense of mischief.
Obviously, this is not a film to take too seriously, and good taste is not on Eisener’s menu. He’s creating a swarming beehive of Troma-inspired nonsense, with a smashing gore zone approach that has entrails squirted into the camera, capturing endless death and destruction in an effort to seize a late-‘80s video nasty mood. Throats are sliced, heads are pulled from bodies, genitals are mutilated, and a school bus filled with children is roasted with a flamethrower. Even our sweetheart of a hero is forced to eat broken glass just to make a few bucks from a salivating “Bumfights” producer. There’s a lot of agony on display, which, I presume, is meant to translate into a rollicking sick time of exploitative delights. Unfortunately, there’s no panache to Eisener’s lumpy direction, which is often perfectly content smearing the viscera on the camera lens, creating a tremendously unsettling aura of sadism instead of chunky, schlocky merriment. Why should I be punished just because Davies and Eisener weren’t hugged enough as kids?
“Hobo with a Shotgun” attempts to merge homage and lampoon, but the timing is way off, with one-half of the picture coolly aware of its bottom-shelf forefathers, while the other half plays cringingly, stridently broad. We’re talking Madea-in-a-fireworks-factory broad (at one point, Slick and Ivan attack Hobo wearing ice skates), with Hauer doing everything he can to suppress a wink to the camera. The jokes aren’t particularly funny either, especially when screamed at top volume by the spittle-drenched cast, who’ve befriended Motorhead-concert decibel levels as their primary source of indication. For a goofy film about a makeshift Rambo, there’s a lot of unexplained rage on display.
Moving on to hulking metallic hunters for the final act showdown, “Hobo with a Shotgun” officially runs out of ideas, pouring random “cool” things into the film like a bad movie piñata. I wanted to embrace the chaos, revel in the lunacy, and delight in the tributes. No dice. Mostly, I just wanted the movie to stop yelling at me.